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Gamma Knife Offers Alternative To Scalpel

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GREENVILLE, N.C. — Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville hopes its new tool will be able to help with delicate surgical procedures involving the brain.

Once in place, the Gamma Knife will be used primarily to treat brain tumors.

"What it is is a radio-surgical unit, which delivers very precise high-dose radiation with the precision of a surgeon's knife," said Dr. Barbara Lazio, a neurosurgeon at Pitt County Memorial Hospital.

The Gamma Knife does not use a knife or make an incision. It focuses 201 intersecting radiation beams on a tumor. The tumor stops growing and over time, it shrinks or disappears.

A single treatment lasts 15 minutes to 40 minutes and the patient can go home within 23 hours with little more than a slight headache.

The hospital spent $5.6 million for the equipment and the new facility that surrounds it. Lazio believes it is the best place in the state for that kind of technology.

"Lung cancer is very prevalent here in eastern North Carolina," Lazio said. "Many of the patients that I see have brain tumors that have spread from their lung cancer and those patients will really receive a lot of advantage from having this tool."

The Gamma Knife works best for deep tumors about 3 to 4 centimeters in size. Larger tumors may still have to be treated with standard surgery. It will take some time to get the unit in place, but the hospital hopes to start using it by October.


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